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Barack Obama ('04-'08)

“False Hopes” before the Jury of History.

“‘What does that mean, false hopes?’ he said at Claremont, the start of a 720-word summation about ‘false hope’ he repeated almost word for word during the day. ‘How have we made progress in this country? Look, did John F. Kennedy look at the moon and say, ‘Ah, it’s too far?’ We can’t do that. We need a reality check. Dr. King standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. ‘You know, this dream thing, it’s a false hope. We can’t expect equality.’ ‘False hopes. Let me tell you something about hope. I do talk about hope quite a bit. Out of necessity. There is no oddsmaker who would have said that I would be standing here when I was born in 1961.’” Invoking JFK and MLK, Obama turns Clinton’s dismaying “false hopes” barb into campaign music. (And, hey, Al Smith is in there too: “We are happy warriors for change,” Obama cried at a rally in Lebanon.“)

For her part, Senator Clinton also went to the historical analogy well of late and came back with…Lyndon Johnson? “‘Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act,’ Clinton said. ‘It took a president to get it done.’” (One of her introducers took it all a bit far and brought up Kennedy’s murder: “‘Some people compare one of the other candidates to John F. Kennedy. But he was assassinated. And Lyndon Baines Johnson was the one who actually’ passed the civil rights legislation.” As my sister-in-law Lotta also noted recently, Not Cool.) At any rate, Clinton’s factual grasp of history is basically sound, if dismayingly top-heavy. In the inspiration department, however, LBJ probably isn’t going to get it done.

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